Mixed feelings on South Africa’s freedom day

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South Africa on Tuesday marked 16 years since the first democratic elections which ushered in black majority rule but opposition parties say “economic bondage” remains a huge challenge.

A student body said there is little to show for freedom as Freedom Day celebrations kicked off in Pretoria with the presidency issuing a statement saying Monday’s release of four South Africans abducted in Sudan, was the “best Freedom Day present for the country”.

Four peacekeepers were kidnapped earlier this month while on a United
Nations -African Union Mission in Darfur. Said the statement, “They are shaken but are in good health and good spirits,” the presidency said in a statement.

President Zuma congratulated the four hostages for their bravery and
wished them well in their recovery from the ordeal. The presidency said Zuma liaised with the United Nations, the Sudanese government and other structures to secure their release, reports say.

However, focusing on the day’s celebrations, Zuma said that though apartheid laws have disappeared from the statute books their effects still linger on.

“Our people still have to daily confront the impact of the law,” Zuma said in Pretoria in televised address before thousands of people gathered outside his office — Union Buildings.

Zuma, citing the Group Areas Act which marked the institutionalising of racial partitioning of cities and towns – was still in existence 20 years after it was repealed. “Many still live in areas once designated for black people… away from economic opportunities and civic services,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Congress of the People (COPE), a breakaway party from
ruling ANC said “economic bondage” remained a challenge. Cope Mvume Dandala is quoted saying South Africans should “nurture good relations amongst all” and urged racial tolerance. “Today let’s be happy to wake up in a place with so much possibility and be ready to welcome the world to our shores as we host the World Cup,” he said.

But the country’s largest student body was more critical in their statements saying Freedom Day marks the day economic freedom was surrendered in exchange for political freedom.

Said South Africa Students Congress, “We have secured a democracy that
gives the rich the right to rule the roost in our political and economic terrain.”

The movement said students and workers should use the Freedom Day, as
a day to strategise on how to expropriate the ill-gotten wealth of the black and white bourgeoisie. “We call on all students and workers not to spare a moment but mobilise to defeat capitalism and neo-liberalism in the movement and in society.”

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